A new story about the old textile mill era

By Deena C. Bouknight

9780062313119-2From 1899 to 1996, cotton goods were in production at Olympia Mill in Columbia, one of four cotton mills in Columbia. At one time, it was the largest cotton mill in the world under one roof.

The South was home to dozens of cotton mills before cheaper labor and resources became readily available outside the United States. Many small but once-thriving towns throughout southeastern states eventually quieted, or became forsaken vestiges. While the mill town flourished, so did a distinct way of life and culture. Wilmington, North Carolina-based author, Wiley Cash, who is also writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina – Asheville, captures the fortitude of the everyday mill worker in his new novel, The Last Ballad.

The main setting is Gaston County, near Charlotte, in the 1920s, but the primary character Ella May Wiggins works in “the countless mills in both Carolinas.” When she arrives in Gaston County, described as running “on textiles,” there is another reference to the importance of the mills as a way of life for many Southerners: “Everyone across North Carolina, perhaps everyone in the South, knew this about the place that had come to be known as ‘the City of Spindles.’”

Ella May represents countless women of the time. Her parents died, she married young, immediately began having children, and was whisked away from her hometown by a husband who thought mill life would secure them. Yet, he decides that moonshine distribution and carousing are better for him than mill work, so she is left toiling grueling hours for a paltry income.

The Last Ballad’s omniscient narrator describes Ella May witnessing a gruesome machine accident at the mill; coming home exhausted only to care for sickly children watched daily by her 11-year-old and perpetually needing food, clothing, and other basics. But the main point of the story is Ella May’s courage to join the highly controversial National Textile Workers Union – considered communistic and anti-American by many (especially mill owners) at the time. Ella May desired a standard wage to get herself and her brood of four (and another on the way) out of poverty’s grasp.

Though relatively uneducated, Ella May understands innately the concept of fairness. She also recognizes condescension. She is a responsible, committed worker but occasionally has to ask for a shift off to tend to sickness suffered by one of her children. Her boss’s uncaring and unsympathetic attitude is the impetus she needs to challenge mill authority and way of life. She knows she could be fired for even thinking of joining a union, but union organizers are convincing.

The book gets its name from Ella May’s simple song, scrawled in pencil on a scrap of paper, about joining a union for the sake of children and their futures. When she is asked to deliver the song during the rally, she shrinks. But remembering her wage of $9 a week for six full work days, she reconsiders. What results is a beautiful ballad with convicting lyrics that not only spellbinds the audience, but garners media attention. She visited the rally to learn more about the union but instantly becomes the face of the union. “Ella’s senses awakened to the noise coming from the crowds: people cheered, whistled and pointed, called her name and chanted union slogans.”

The Last Ballad is both beautifully tragic and interestingly historic. It lauds mill workers from a bygone industrial era while at the same time spotlighting dynamics and conflicts between the weighty influence of paternal mill possessors and the sometimes overzealous ideals of union organizers.


Hop On! Hop Off!

IMG_14845-970x545.jpgThe Comet (a.k.a. Soda Cap Connector) is covenient way to peruse Columbia

By Deena C. Bouknight

Have you seen the buses around town painted retro blue with pink accents? This is Columbia’s novel transit system aimed at moving from tired to trendy with regard to public in-city transportation. Whether visiting the capital city for the first time, getting a feel for the area’s main roads and routes, commuting to work or school, or enjoying time at one of the many restaurants, shops, or sites, The Comet – also known as Soda Cap Connector – offers a comfortable and enjoyable ride.

The nickname, Soda Cap Connector, comes from the play on “cola town” as the shortened name for Columbia. And then there is the Soda City market, which has become a hub of activity every Saturday on Main Street. Included in The Comet’s logo design is a starBusSign that represents the stars on the South Carolina State House capitol building. Throughout town are large soda cap shaped signs, painted the same retro blue as The Comet buses, that tout the Soda Cap Connector logo; these signs indicate transit stops, and underneath is listed information about where the bus is scheduled to stop next.

Besides clean, comfortable, air-conditioned or heated (depending on weather), and graphically appealing, The Comet offers users real-time bus locators through its app, which can be downloaded on a smartphone or tablet. Users also have access to free WiFi, and there is space for bikes. Plus, catchthecomet.org has easy-to-understand information on how to read the schedule and find the best route.

The Comet stops at such points of interest as the South Carolina State Museum, the University of South Carolina, the Columbia Museum of Art, Five Points, area universities, and more. An entire route takes about 20 minutes, with stops every few minutes. Passengers can pick up colorful maps that include routes and times.

Prices are from $1.50 for a one-time regular fare to $3.00 to ride all day. A 31-day pass is $40.00. Half-priced passes are available to those who qualify; criteria includes disabilities, veterans, seniors over 65, and those on Medicare. (Anyone interested in a half pass must make an appointment at the Lowell C. Spires Jr. Regional Transit Authority at 3613 Lucius Road.) And, children 15 years old and younger ride The Comet for free.

To pay a fare, either have exact change when entering The Comet or purchases passes at the customer service desk of the North Main Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Other options include buying tickets at the Transit Center on the corner of Sumter and Laurel Street or on the Catch the COMET smartphone app.

Touted on The Comet website is this statement: “It’s out with the old and in with the new. And when we say new, we mean everything. Just see for yourself. The totally new COMET. It’s gonna be one heck of a ride.”




Let Them Eat Cake

By Margaret Clay

It is always exciting when we begin production on one of our biannual bridal issues. Everyone loves pouring over the beautiful photography, marveling at the creative choices expressive of the bride and groom, and reading the heartwarming story of their romance.

As children, when my sisters and I were lucky enough to accompany our parents to a wedding, the topic that consumed our eager anticipation was always the wedding cake. The ceremony would surely be lovely, the flowers beautiful, and the first dance charming, but we viewed everything as building to an ultimate climax — the cutting of the cake. Would it be the traditional “wedding cake” vanilla flavor? Almond? Perhaps a hint of lemon? And most importantly, would it have the sugary, almost crunchy icing?

Helen, my youngest sister, perfected the art of scoring the most icing possible per slice. She was a petite child and would wait in the wings as the caterer cut and served a tier of the cake. When they reached the end, she would slip in and secure the last piece, a veritable sheet of icing.

This penchant for capturing enviable slices of wedding cake seems to stem from a genetic predisposition. At my parents’ wedding in 1984, they set down the premier slice to enjoy the interlocked sip of champagne first. When they turned back to feed each other their first bites, the plate had disappeared without a trace. It was only when they received their photography back two months later that they apprehended the culprit — in the photo of their celebratory champagne toast, while everyone’s attention was diverted on the happy couple, my then 3-year-old cousin was captured peeping around the skirt of the table with arm outstretched, her fingers gripping the plate.

Young girls have long held wedding cake as a special object of desire. The tradition of their taking a piece home to sleep on (and thereby dream of their future husbands) dates back to the 17th century. Another favorite, time-honored tradition is that of preserving the top tier for the first anniversary celebration. This originates from the 19th century custom of saving it for the first child’s christening, but later, when couples began waiting to start their families, evolved into an anniversary festivity. My mother was so enamored with the concept of wedding cake on their anniversary that she decided to make it a yearly tradition and for years would order a small, one-tiered cake from Parkland Bakery.

Whether you have a wedding-filled calendar this summer or not, vicariously enjoy the beautiful celebrations featured on pages 40 and 54 in this issue while looking forward to your next opportunity for wedding cake!

Summer Runnin’


Beat the heat

By Deena C. Bouknight

Just because summer months are the most arduous in Columbia – temperature wise – does not mean runners must resign running shoes to a box under the bed. Although mild weather in fall, winter, and spring is ideal, summer can have its rewards. The key is to run smartly.

These are some basic tips:

– Avoid, if possible, the hottest part of the day, which is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

– Wear light, loose clothing to reflect heat and allow for sweat evaporation.

– Wear a sunscreen with 45 SPF or higher.

– Stay hydrated; a few glasses of water before running is advised and then carry a bottle or wear a hydration pack and sip at least every 15-20 minutes.

– Make sure electrolyte and salt intake is replenished.

– Run on shaded trails if possible.

– Check weather advisories to learn if there are any particular issues regarding air endurance-exercise-female-40751pollution or excessively high humidity, for example.

– Pay attention to any dizziness, faintness, or nausea during and after running. Consult a physician if it continues after hydration and replenishment of electrolytes and salt.

If there are any respiratory or heart conditions, or if medications are taken, consult a physician to learn if summer running is a good idea.


Run With Others

athletes-cardio-dirt-road-34495.jpgIf the summer heat wave de-motivates, there are running groups to encourage. Local ones include:

– Columbia Running Club

– Females in Action

– F3 Midlands (guys only)

– Fleet Feet Running

– Team Utopia South

– Strictly Running

Check out running sites to learn of any summer events that will truly inspire. For example, Strictly Running hosts its Hot Summer Night 5K August 4th at 7 p.m. and offers to runners all kinds of summer fresh fruit for refreshment.

Running Paths

Visit mapmyrun.com for a host of running paths – including the distance for each. Everything from a mile to 15 miles is routed. Two most popular paths are the Riverwalk and Timmerman Trail. The main entrance to the Cayce / West Columbia Riverwalk is located at the intersection of Axtell Drive and Naples Avenue. You can also access the park at the intersection of State Street and Lucas Street. It meanders on stable footing for 8 miles in one direction and runs from Gervais Street to Knox Abbott Drive. There is also access at Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park, just off Huger Street. The Timmerman Trail, a little over 6 miles, can be accessed from the 12th Street Extension at SCANA Parkway or after the Cayce Tennis Center at the 12,000 Year History Trailhead. Timmerman Trail is well maintained, has plenty of shade, and much of it is located next to streams, creeks, and swamps.


cherry-pie-3384549_960_720Tips on proper care

By Virginia Newell

The fine art you own is a pleasure and an investment. A little preventive maintenance by the owner will conserve its beauty and value for many years.

Conservation is the professional term for preventive maintenance and implies protecting your fine art. Conservation starts with your knowledge about how to care for your art.

Another important term is restoration, which is treatment of fine art by a conservator. Restoration can arrest, and in many cases reverse, the negative effects of aging, accidents, and environmental damage.

Restoration is only needed when something is wrong with your art. This can mean your art is dirty, torn, desiccated, acid-paper burned, fungus infected, water damaged, or any one of many other categories of damage.

The professional conservator can be thought of as a physician for your fine art. But you must take the first steps in preventing major problems and slowing the aging process.

Basic tips to help you conserve your fine art include: 

  • Use your air conditioning/heating system to maintain a stable environment with temperatures between 63–73 degrees F and relative humidity between 45–55 percent.
  • Keep art out of drafts and away from air conditioning/heating vents and open fireplaces in use.
  • Keep art out of extended exposure to direct light, either artificial or sunlight. Hang art in shaded spots, preferably recessed.
  • Never hang art on damp walls, or store in garages or in attics.
  • Use only 100 percent cotton rag paper, which is also known as museum mounting, to mount your paper art. Only this kind of paper is acid-free. And never use pressure-sensitive tapes.
  • Consult a conservator about deacidification of paper art; this is another important step in conservation.

Protect your fine art. Follow these six steps and use a conservator when necessary.

Virginia Newell is founder and owner of ReNewell Inc. Fine Art Conservation in Columbia. A spotlight on her art restoration skills for individuals and museums, including the Columbia Museum of Art, is featured in the June 2018 issue of CMM, titled “The Art of Restoration.” 

Letter From the Editor: June 2018

d5a8128Pervading Passions

By Margaret Clay

June is such a month of pleasure. School is out, pool parties ensue, and vacations abound. In this issue, I am struck by the consuming passion and joy that has burned its way out of the hearts of local Columbians into incredible accomplishments, both as careers and as hobbies. For example, on page 34, read about how Dreher graduates Erin and Garrett Graham turned their love of summer camp into buying historic Camp Glen Arden in North Carolina. There, they continue the old traditions that have delighted young girls for generations, as well as invent their own additions.

Local celebrity Amanda McNulty fused her bubbly personality and green thumb into a delightful package that ultimately landed her as host of ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. Rather than pursue her original plans of working in diplomacy, she allowed her passion to sidetrack her into a successful and fulfilling vocation. Read about her Emmy Award-winning career and “common sense approach to gardening” on page 24.
The tedious process of fine art restoration can only be described as a labor of love. Ginny Newell combined her knowledge of art history, acumen of chemistry, and dexterity as a painter to start ReNewell, Inc. Fine Art Conservation. Now, people from across the country seek her expertise in restoring valuable artwork. Learn more about her unique talent and the process of art restoration on page 72.

Jamie Walker has traveled to Costa Rica for years in pursuit of sailfish; however, his curiosity about where they disappeared to in the summers led him to institute the Billfish Research Project, the world’s only scientific study focused on Pacific sailfish migration off the coast of Costa Rica. Take a glimpse of his gorgeous photography of these majestic fish, and learn more about the project on page 56.

Yet another growing trend for the outdoorsman is reusing closed fire towers as private nature lookouts, enjoyed for their panoramic views of wildlife and summer sunsets. Find out how to acquire your own crow’s nest retreat on page 38, and start enjoying cocktail hour on top of the world.

Others in Columbia have moved just down the road to pursue their equine passion full time on horse farms in pastoral Blythewood. Read about this bucolic community and its newest prancing residents on page 48.

No matter your passion, “take it to the max,” and enjoy!

History on Display

cotton-2807360_960_720Camden features cotton mill era exhibit until August

By Deena C. Bouknight

At one time, cotton truly was king in  South Carolina. Thousands of acres of rural farmland were snowy white for about six weeks from late summer into early fall. And, while spinning yarn into cloth was an aspect of life for many from as early as the 17th century in South Carolina, it was the 1800s when cotton crops and textile mills thrived. Even post-Civil War, cotton continued as a major crop, and today, at least a half million bales are harvested annually.

To honor the importance of cotton as a South Carolina staple, The Camden Archives & Museum opened an exhibit on the textile industry on February 5, 2018. “Camden’s Cotton Mill Era: 1838-1960” focuses on how the lives of thousands of mill workers and their families were centered on the mills.  This exhibit explores the mills, the people who owned and who labored at them, and the impact they had on Camden.

The exhibit is free to the public and runs through August 11, 2018. For more information or to schedule a group, call 803-425-6050, or visit http://www.camdenschistory.com.

Ottie Roberson Celebrates her 107th Birthday

By Delia Corrigan

West Columbia resident Ottie Roberson celebrated her 107th birthday on March 18th. Her smile and interest in the people around her — caregivers, family, and friends — reveal a strong, compassionate and positive woman who has seen much of life.

Ottie recently enjoyed a birthday visit from Dr. Mark Smith and Debbie Smith, President and First Lady of Columbia International University, who wanted to personally honor the college’s oldest living alumni. Along with others from the CIU Alumni Office, they harmonized on “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Amazing Grace,” to the delight of Roberson. “Her heart of thanksgiving for me showing up was unbelievable. The joy in the visit was ours, not hers,” says Dr. Smith. Recently, CIU established a scholarship in her name to help students in need of financial aid.

In 2002, when Mrs. Roberson was a mere 91 years old, she, with the help of family members, collected data and family photos and wrote down her memories in a booklet entitled, “A Loving Glimpse of the Past.” The fascinating portrait of her earliest memories, up to age sixteen, is a record of how we South Carolinians are ever changing, yet ever the same.

Included in the memoir is a contemplation entitled “Realization”, which she composed at 83 years of age. She writes, “I’m standing at the crossroads of my life … I long to go back and change the past, but it’s too late. I realize now that life’s too short … No one has the answer; only God knows how and why. I pray that he will guide me through the times I cannot foresee, and then let me rest and be at peace in his promised eternity.”

Ottie is a descendant of hardworking German immigrants who landed in Boston prior to the American Revolution. They soon moved to Pennsylvania, and then migrated to a German speaking community in York County. They were stonemasons, and the home they built in what is now Kings Mountain State Park is nicknamed “The Rock House.” It is occasionally open to the public.

Ottie’s parents lost their first two babies, one a stillborn and the other at four-years old. Ottie describes how her father got on a mule at 2 a.m. to get Dr. Allhands to come. The doctor had been out all night delivering a baby and needed to sleep, promising to get there by 9 am. Ottie writes, “The Doctor came but was too late.”

Within a year, Ealon was born, and on March 18, 1911, Ottie was born. Five healthy siblings soon joined the family.

Ottie Roberson has lived and thrived through the historic events of the last century. Her family farmed crops ranging from cotton to cane, and many staples in between. Ottie remembers crossing a field without realizing that the bull calf was out, and she writes, “First thing I knew he came at me, picked me up with his head and literally threw me over the gate … I had a few bruises, but my feelings were hurt worse because my brother was bent over laughing at me.”

The mode of transportation changed from wagon to buggy to a model T that her father drove into a ditch because so many neighbors crowded the road to get their first sighting of a car. Ottie lived through two world wars, an influenza epidemic, and welcomed her handsome husband home from World War II. “We were never rich in material things but very rich in what counted most; honest, sincere, work, and respect and love for the Lord and His church,” writes Ottie.

From all of us at CMM, happy 107 years young to Ottie! What an honor to have you as part of our community.


South Carolina Originals

By Margaret Clay

This past year, we at CMM were very excited to unveil the Capital Young Professional Awards, honoring men and women 35 and younger who are excelling in their careers, community leadership, and philanthropy. We received many impressive nominations again this year, and it was a truly difficult process to determine the top 20, who were then reviewed by the CMM team along with a committee from United Way of the Midlands.

After a weeks-long process, we selected the Top Ten Finalists, whom we celebrated with a party at Senate’s End on April 24. I hope you were able to come! We were proud to honor Anthony Broughton, Elliott Daniels, Mary Cothonneau Eldridge, Hamilton Grant, Trevor Knox, Tripp Rush, Lauren Truslow, Ashlye Wilkerson, Lyndey Zwing, and most especially our 2018 CYP winner — Lindsay Joyner.

These inspiring individuals are shaping the future of Columbia through their unique skill sets and passions that benefit our community. Elliott, for example, is making great strides toward ending sex trafficking in our state, while Anthony is changing the courses of countless lives through making education cool for young children. We are privileged to know these emerging leaders who serve as beacons of positive change that would behoove us all to emulate. Read more about our CYP finalists and their impressive accomplishments and goals on page 52.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI, the birth of Fort Jackson, as well as Armistice Day. Read Tom Smith’s insightful reflections on South Carolina’s role in “the war to end all wars” on page 30.

Perhaps my favorite experience to come from putting this issue together was encountering Marsh Tackies — South Carolina’s official state heritage horse. These incredibly versatile and steady little equines were Francis Marion’s choice for evading the British in the tricky terrain of the swamps, and they are making a resurgence in popularity as trail riding companions thanks to the efforts of many to repopulate the breed. Read more about them and other native South Carolina pets on page 116.

Lastly, visually prepare for long summer days on the water by taking a look at Robert Clark’s beautiful photo essay, “Down at the Dock,” featuring marinas and docks across South Carolina on page 60. However, you don’t have to journey far from home to reap the benefits of the great outdoors. Warren Hughes shares the boons of taking a stroll through nature and basking in the earth’s elements in her article about the new trend of “forest bathing” on page 46.

I hope you enjoy this issue!